Friday, February 7, 2014

C.M.B. volume 15 review

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C.M.B., vol. 15, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

(A nameless detective gets attacked by the wooden statue.)

Ariadone no Ito (A Thread from Ariadne, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2010).
A TV crew from a Japanese "mysteries" show arrives at Shinra's museum with Det. Kujirazaki in tow. They've latched on to a wooden statue of a minotaur, and want the boy to investigate the legend that it can move. At least one Greek specialist was attacked by the statue in the 60's, and several others that had been hired by the TV station have also been put into the hospital by it. In all cases, the victims mentioned "the sun" to their rescuers. Since Tatsuki has no idea what anyone is talking about, Shinra relates the story of King Minos, his breaking a promise with the god Poseidon, Minos's wife falling in love with a bull and bearing a bull-headed baby that eventually grows dangerous enough that the King condemns him to a maze built by Daedalus, and eventually how Minos' daughter, Ariadne, gave red thread to Theseus, allowing Theseus to leave the maze after killing the minotaur. (Tatsuki is upset that Shinra finishes the story without a fight scene.

(King Minos and the labyrinth.)

Because of the potential danger, Kujirazaki assigns one of his men to sit watch as Shinra examines the statue. Late at night, Shinra has to leave the museum to get some more materials. Then, as the guard is eating a sandwich and reporting in to Kujirazaki on his cell phone, he's suddenly attacked. He flies out the door just as Shinra and Tatsuki are returning to the museum, but when the boy reaches the second floor of the building, the statue is where it belongs, and the supposedly damaged cell phone is still intact. Importantly, though, the guard never saw anything related to "the sun". Questions: Is the statue cursed? Is it magic? Or, is it not really moving? Why do Greek experts see the sun when attacked, but the guard didn't?

No real science, just the retelling of the Minotaur story, and a little information about special "botanicals". In return for solving the puzzle, Shinra asks to keep the statue.

("You don't need to call the police now." "But, I haven't connected with them yet!")

Sakana Tsuri (Fishing in the Secret Place, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2010).
Two of Tatsuki's classmates have a special fishing spot on the docks in Tokyo harbor. Several of the other class members learn about this and tag along one cold Fall day. As they're setting up their poles in the shadow of a cargo ship, they notice a smaller boat just sitting next to the big ship. They also spot a suspicious-looking guy staring at the two men on the smaller boat. Towards the end of the day, a second boat joins the first, and one guy gets out to talk to the other two. There's a fight, and one of the men is pushed overboard. As Tatsuki is about to call the police, the two boats are suddenly surrounded by cops. The suspicious guy is actually a detective and he believes that some drugs are about to change hands. The three men are detained as divers scour the bay and cops sweep the two boats.

(Explaining the concept of ballast.)

Everyone is coming up empty. The suspects are looking happy and the detective seems to be facing a demotion. Suddenly, Shinra runs over to the investigators and talks to the lead detective for a few minutes. Questions: What happened to the drugs, if they ever existed in the first place? Does the detective keep his job? Do the suspects go free to exact revenge on the snooping kids? What advice did Shinra give?

No science, just an explanation of why ships need ballast, and of certain international laws designed to prevent the introduction of invasive species to foreign lands. The price for his help is that the police will let the kids fish from one of their patrol boats.

(Stan Bernui visits Shinra's mother's grave.)

Sutan (His Name is Stan, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2010).
A statue of a Hindu Devata in Cambodia is being prepared for transport from a research building to the national museum by truck. But, when the locked trunk arrives at its destination, it turns out to be empty. A few days later, Shinra is waiting at the airport to greet the second of his three adoptive fathers, Stan Bernui (sp?) (the katakana spelling is"Berunu-i"). Tatsuki braces herself for another goofball like Ray Black, but is surprised at the serious-looking guy that greets her. Stan had received information from Mao that the stolen Devata statue had been received by a Japanese buyer, the finance tycoon Kaizou Hoshitake. So, he'd come to Japan to get the statue back and to meet up with Shinra. When the group goes to Kaizou's estate, the guy sics his dobermans on them, but Shinra just calms the dogs down by talking to them. Kaizou throws a temper tantrum so the group leaves. Tatsuki thinks that this is the end of it, but Shinra relates a story from when he was younger. He, Stan and Ray had gone to an excavation site in central Asia when a tunnel was found leading from a burial mound. The tunnel had been blocked by a monstrous boulder. The others were willing to give up and go do something else, but Stan grabbed a hammer and chisel and started pounding on the boulder. Ray took Shinra to another dig in Egypt, while the Asian work crew had to save Stan from killing himself on the boulder. Half a year later, the team broke through to the other side and Shinra was flown back to Asia so Stan could show him the treasures in the burial room. From this, Shinra had learned the value of tenacity.

(Stan versus Kaizou.)

Stan, Shinra and Tatsuki visit the grave of Shinra's mother, then Stan goes to work visiting Kaizou and disrupting his business and private lives. Finally, Kaizou snaps and orders his men to kidnap and drug Stan, but Tatsuki was in the area and she saves him at the last minute. (She asks him why the three adoptive fathers allowed Shinra to run off on his own. Stan says that he'd wanted to stop the boy, but that the spirit of the boy's mother warned him to let Shinra follow his own path.) Finally, Tatsuki tells the two that Kaizou is too dangerous to keep prodding, and that Shinra has to come up with a better approach. Questions: How did the statue disappear in the first place? Does Kaizou have a replica, like he claims? If not, where's the original statue and how does Shinra learn its location? How does Kaizou get prevented from using the "I didn't know it was stolen" defense?

No science, just some nice pictures of burial sites. Shinra doesn't ask for payment this time, although Stan does try to get the boy to return back to England with him at the end.

(Mary and the quilt fragment.)

Kiruto (The Quilt, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2010).
Mary Frontman, age 92, is an heiress from England. While she is on life support, she's rich enough to afford having herself and her staff flown to Japan to meet the holder of the C.M.B. rings. She's also rich enough to cause a huge international headache for the Japanese government if Shinra does anything wrong to cause her to die prematurely on Japanese soil, so someone from the State department escorts the boy to Frontman's hotel room. There, the old woman goes into a frenzy trying to urge the boy to decipher the message hidden in a burned fragment of an old quilt. Shinra flies to England to investigate, and when the woman recovers later, Tatsuki is there to ask what's so important about the quilt. Frontman says that she had a best friend, Lottie, when they were young girls growing up in the countryside. That ended when Lottie started seeing someone named "Blue" and Mary's parents arranged to have Blue marry her instead of Lottie. Lottie refused to attend the wedding. Blue was sent to India for business and as he was leaving London on the train, Lottie came up on the platform and gave the quilt to Mary, saying "I made this because it's so important to you". Scared, Mary went to India to investigate the materials used to make the quilt, which was jammed into the back of her suitcase, but didn't find anything unusual about it. Mary had 3 children with Blue, and Lottie got married and had a child of her own. Eventually, the Frontmans returned to London, and while Mary had located Lottie's house, she was still too weak-willed to talk to her. Later, the Frontman's house caught fire, and Mr. Frontman and his third child died in the blaze. Lottie had attended the funeral but still refused to talk to Mary. Just recently, Lottie's grandchild visited her to say that just before she died, Lottie was wondering if Mary had figured out the message in the quilt. The quilt had been in the suitcase from when she went to India, and had been mostly damaged in the fire. Since no one else could read it, Mary insisted on coming to Japan to see the holder of the three rings. She goes into a coughing fit, and one of her entourage threatens legal action against Shinra if he doesn't find the answer right now.

(Mary likes stealing cookies to share with her friend, Lottie, in their secret hideout under the dining table.)

Initially, Shinra thought that the quilt had a "slave code" designed into it, but now he's pretty sure it doesn't. When he went to the old Frontman house, he found it to be just charred rubble. Sitting in a cafe, drinking coffee, he sees a quilt pattern on the wall and suddenly realizes what the "message" is. He finds the real estate agency that maintains Mary's childhood home and is allowed inside. Questions: Is there a code built into Lottie's quilt? Is it possible to learn anything from the fragment? Does Shinra cause the outbreak of war between Japan and England?

--- Spoilers ---

In Mary's childhood home, Shinra lays down xerox copies of the quilt fragment to show the caretaker's granddaughter what the finished quilt would look like. This illustrates the optical illusion built into the pattern of the underside of a table. Shinra finds the table that Mary and Lottie used to play under, and uses his cell phone to relay the message carved into the wood to Mary - "My Beloved Mary, I just can not forgive you". Shinra is depressed because it's a sad message, but Mary dies happy because she's focusing on "beloved Mary". Thus, with the mission completed, disaster is averted. The caretaker's granddaughter takes pity on Shinra and invites him to have tea with her.

No science, just a short discussion of quilt codes. (Note that according to Wikipedia, the notion of slave codes is something new, and has never been supported by historical evidence. That is, researchers can't decipher quilts from the 1800's or earlier.) Notice also that while the Frontman entourage and the Japanese government threaten Shinra into helping them, there's no mention of covering his expenses, or a "thank you" gift for all his work. The best he gets is Tatsuki saying "good work", and a cup of tea.

(Back cover, and the Royal Game of Ur from the previous volume.)

Comments: It's nice being able to find out the name of another of Shinra's "fathers". And the interaction between Kaizou and Stan is fairly funny. The fishing story is just fluff along the lines of Ellery Queen, and the "mystery" of the minotaur statue is actually kind of a stretch. The part about the quilts in the last chapter is entertaining, but Mary Frontman isn't a very likeable person. Overall, this volume is recommended mainly if you want to learn about Stan Bernui.

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